The movement suffered a setback Tuesday night when a report delivered to the Historic Preservation Commission stated Plummer Park's historic landmark designation was no longer valid.
In 1935, was designated as “California Historic Landmark No 160.” That designation described the park as containing a dance pavilion, a barbeque pit, well, pepper trees, elderberry trees and a six-room house built by Captain Eugenio Plummer in 1874. For many years, the Plummer House had a placard describing it as “the oldest house in Hollywood.”
In the 77 years since that landmark designation was made, the park has changed drastically, with the addition of the conjoined Great Hall/Long Hall in 1938 and Fiesta Hall in 1950, and the demolition of the dance pavilion, barbeque pit and well.
In 1983, the Plummer House had fallen into severe disrepair and was slated for demolition, but was saved by the Leonis Adobe Association, which moved it to Calabasas.
The report presented to the Historic Preservation Commission concludes that the park no longer resembles the park described in the 1935 designation and that the removal of the Plummer House invalidated the original landmark application.
An accompanying letter from the state dated Oct. 31, 1983, also said that the landmark status was invalidated by the removal of the house.
Protect Plummer Park had hoped the historic landmark status would prevent the city from carrying through its plan to demolish Great Hall/Long Hall, the only buildings in Los Angeles County that were built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era government agency that built many public works projects.
“I’m sorry there’s nothing in [the report] that helps bolster your argument,” Commission Chair Gail Ostergren told the Plummer Park supporters at the meeting. “I know it’s been frustrating that you’ve been here month after month with a lot of passion and comments, and we haven’t been able to respond because it hasn’t been on the agenda.”
Public can write a nomination
Commissioner Bruce Kaye described the report as a “technicality” and encouraged the public to write a historic nomination for Plummer Park or some of the buildings in the park.
“I would urge you, if you care about things, to be proactive and to write nominations and not to wait for the city or some other entity to do that work for you,” Kaye said. “If there are buildings that you see in the park that you think should be nominated, well then write those nominations. Don’t wait for the city to do it. This commission does not have the authority to write nominations. It’s not what we do.”
Kaye went on to say that the process of nominating a building for historic status can be intimidating and time-consuming, but that the public has done it in the past.
Stephanie Harker, who spearheaded the Protect Plummer Park movement, said she was disappointed by the report, but glad to have the information.
“I’m surprised it has taken them this long to look into it,” said Harker. “I’ve been mentioning Historic Marker 160 for eight months.”
The report also states that even if the landmark status was still valid, there is nothing in that designation that prevents the city from making improvements and modifications to the park, provided the city complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Harker told Weho Patch, “CEQA has stated that on this project, either in the draft EIR [Environmental Impact Report] or the EIR that to demolish or alter Fiesta Hall, Great Hall, Long Hall in any way was a significant adverse impact. That would mean that if the city is going to follow CEQA, they will not be destroying those historic buildings.”
The city plans a $41 million renovation of the park. The city initially proposed closing a majority of the park for 18 to 24 months while a 179-space underground parking garage was constructed in the middle of the park. The plan also called for the demolition of Great Hall/Long Hall and Tiny Tots pre-school building and removal of most of the old growth trees in the center of the park.
Due to public outcry, the City Council agreed to delay the renovations while other options were considered. A City Hall subcommittee is currently studying alternate plans and is scheduled to make a presentation to the council in May.